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Splitting the replicator: Generalized Darwinism and the place of culture in nature


  • Andersson, Claes


The concept of Replication has been turned around, moved about and hammered upon in search for a good fit in the puzzle of Generalized Darwinism for a long time. The present paper represents a different take on the formulation of a Generalized Darwinism and on Replication. Replication in evolutionary biology is argued to combine two functions: (i) the production of propositions (Synthesis) and (ii) the retention of propositions over time (Memory). By insisting on universally grouping these two functions together the Replicator–Interactor (RI) framework is here argued to suffer from a fundamental ontological mismatch that no amount of bending and stretching of the concept can avoid. When we allow different packaging of Interaction, Synthesis and Memory (ISM) for different systems, we produce much less empirical friction. Replication then emerges as an important special case, but where replication is not the right model, the ISM model brings a range of issues into the open that remain hidden from an RI viewpoint. Also, when we reserve replication for the cases where it really fits we retain the strong theoretical power and empirical relevance by which it gained its fame in evolutionary biology.

Suggested Citation

  • Andersson, Claes, 2011. "Splitting the replicator: Generalized Darwinism and the place of culture in nature," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 657-669.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:80:y:2011:i:3:p:657-669
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2011.06.027

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Geoffrey Hodgson & Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2004. "The firm as an interactor: firms as vehicles for habits and routines," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 281-307, July.
    2. Howard Aldrich & Geoffrey Hodgson & David Hull & Thorbjørn Knudsen & Joel Mokyr & Viktor Vanberg, 2008. "In defence of generalized Darwinism," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 18(5), pages 577-596, October.
    3. Pavel Pelikan, 2011. "Evolutionary developmental economics: how to generalize Darwinism fruitfully to help comprehend economic change," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 341-366, May.
    4. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2006. "Why we need a generalized Darwinism, and why generalized Darwinism is not enough," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-19, September.
    5. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjørn, 2010. "Generative replication and the evolution of complexity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 12-24, July.
    6. Christian Cordes, 2006. "Darwinism in economics: from analogy to continuity," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 529-541, December.
    7. Cohen, Michael D, et al, 1996. "Routines and Other Recurring Action Patterns of Organizations: Contemporary Research Issues," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(3), pages 653-698.
    8. Witt, Ulrich, 2009. "Propositions about novelty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 311-320, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Schubert, 2014. "“Generalized Darwinism” and the quest for an evolutionary theory of policy-making," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 479-513, July.

    More about this item


    Evolutionary social science; Evolutionary epistemology; Generalized Darwinism; Memetics; Replication;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General


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